Skip to content

Birkath Hal’vana and Calendrical Confusion, Part 3

R’ Schachter has shed much light on the subject of Birkath Ha’L’vana.
In a shiur recently uploaded to, R’ Schachter mentioned the opinion of the P’ri M’gadim (Yoreh Deah 15:2) regarding the eight-day waiting period between an animal’s birth and its becoming fit for sacrifice: the period is calculated as exactly 7 times 24 hours (me’eth l’eth) after the moment of its birth. R’ Schachter further mentioned that Rabbi Akiva Eiger (ad loc.) takes the P’ri Mgadim to task for this claim, as it contradicts the plain meaning of the relevant Talmudic sources which assume that the eight days are calculated according to the general rule of miqztath hayom k’chullo, that a part of the day is considered the entire day, just like with all the other similar calculations demanded by halacha, e.g., what day a child will be circumcised. For example, a child born at the end of halachic Sunday is circumcised the next Sunday morning, and we do not say that we should wait at least until the exact hour of Sunday at which the child was born.
I am gratified that R’ Schachter pointed this out, because when I first researched the matter, I found that, to my extremely limited wisdom and knowledge, a similar conclusion is reached by the P’ri M’gadim regarding calculating the time for the monthly Birkath Hal’vana. As I attempted to explain at length, the explicit opinion of the Rishonim regarding this matter is that the blessing is recited as soon as one sees the new moon (Rashi and Rambam both declare that the blessing is intended for Rosh Hodesh), or “two or three days” from the molad, and the P’ri M’gadim was the first to assert that the calculation, at least according to the R’ma, is also me’eth l’eth, or exactly three times 24 hours from the molad, i.e., at least three full days. My claim is thus twofold:
1. With all due respect to the P’ri Mgadim, he appears to be incorrect with regard to his claim within the opinion of the R’ma, just as R’ Schachter pointed out in the case above (Yoreh Deah 15:2).
2.  The modern-day calendar makers declare that according to the opinion of the Shulhan Aruch, the practice of waiting for seven days to pass from the molad is also calculated me’eth l’eth, by adding seven times 24 hours to the time of the molad, in essence extending the novel opinion of the P’ri M’gadim to the opinion of the Shulhan Aruch, but the fact is that the Beth Yosef explicitly rejects such exact calculation regarding the final time for Birkath Hal’vana, and there appears to be no reason for him to have used such a method to calculate the first time for reciting the blessing, or to even have a need to calculate such a thing. For him and the rishonim, it is sufficient to see the moon any time after it has become renewed.
In  summary, we have here two further applications of the P’ri M’gadim’s opinion (which was rejected by Rabbi Akiva Eiger) regarding a topic that is not commonly studied.
In another shiur, R’ Schachter discussed the issue of two-day Rosh Hodesh in Temple times: On which day of Rosh Hodesh were the additional sacrifices offered? While there is a Talmudic source that assumes that the sacrifices were only brought on one day of Rosh Hodesh, there is also Biblical evidence that even before the Temple was built, Rosh Hodesh was sometimes observed as two days, and even today, it is observed that way about half the time. At about six minutes in, R’ Schachter mentions an answer offered by Rabbi Soloveichik: In Numbers 28, we are bidden to offer the offering of the Sabbath, “olath shabbath b’shabbatto,” which literally means, “the Sabbath burnt offering on its Sabbath,”  but which is rendered by Onqelos, “alath shabba tith’aveid b’shabba,” the Sabbath burnt offering should be made on the Sabbath. Onqelos’s addition clarifies the meaning. However, in the subsequent paragraph describing the Rosh Hodesh offering, we read, “zoth olath hodesh b’hodsho,” literally “this is the [Rosh] Hodesh burnt offering on its Hodesh,” and we would expect Onqelos to render this along the same lines as shabbath b’shabbatto, but he does not. Instead, he abandons a literal translation with a one-word addition, and gives an explanation (which, by the way, is common. Whenever an anthropomorphism is used with regards to God, or whenever the halacha does not fit the literal translation, Onqelos does not translate literally): “da ‘alath reish yarha b’ithkhadathutheh,” which in Hebrew would be “zoth olath rosh yarei’ah b’hiddusho,” or “this is the New Moon burnt offering at the time of [the moon’s] renewal.” Rabbi Soloveichik offered that even if Rosh Hodesh were a two-day event, the special sacrifice of the beginning of the month should only be offered on the day of the renewal, that is, on the day of the two-day Rosh Hodesh that is observed as the renewal of the moon.
This is greatly enlightening, because for years I have been saying that when the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Hayim 426:1) says hal’vana b’hiddusha, the moon (this time described in the feminine form, l’vana, as opposed to the masculine hodeshyarei’ah, yarha, or molad) in its renewal, he means it as Rambam and Rashi meant it, on the first day of the month. Here, we have a teaching from Onqelos and Rabbi Soloveichik strengthening my position. The hiddush of the moon is  by definition Rosh Hodesh.
It should not come as a surprise then that the Hafetz Hayim himself also was aware of this important halacha and endorsed it. He held that me’iqqar hadin, according to the letter of the law, Birkath Hal’vana is to be said on Rosh Hodesh, and that although there are other practices to delay the recitation, none of them override the letter of the law. In Mishna B’rura, 426:20, he responds to the Shulhan Aruch’s proposition that we should wait for seven days to pass over the new moon before reciting the blessing, and mentions that “most Aharonim held that it is sufficient for the  moon to be three days old for the blessing to be recited,” and for good measure he adds the P’ri M’gadim’s condition that those three days are calculated as exactly three time 24 hours, and then suggests that there is a way to maybe delay the recitation just a little bit more in order to also recite it on Saturday night. But then, he says something that only someone aware of the letter of the law will fully understand: “And some Aharonim, including the Vilna Gaon, are lenient even in this regard, [i.e., waiting about three days for birkath hal’vana], and they hold that it is not worthwhile to delay the commandment in any event, and therefore, one who practices like that certainly has on whom to rely, especially during the winter and the rainy season; certainly someone punctilious and quick to sanctify [the new moon] is praiseworthy.” Here, in no uncertain terms, the Hafetz Hayim champions those who would say birkath hal’vana at the very first opportunity. When, based on all of the available halachic sources, would that be, if not on Rosh Hodesh itself? Years ago, someone declared to me that the earliest time for birkath hal’vana has to be that three-days-into-the-month custom, but that cannot be, because we have seen that the Talmud, the Rishonim, and Rabbi Yosef Karo himself knew that Rosh Hodesh was the first opportunity  for birkath hal’vana, and the Hafetz Hayim was certainly aware of all this. Further, he mentioned the three-day custom in the previous sentence, and it was to that custom to which he was bringing an even earlier-in-the-month custom!
(As an aside, I would like to dispute what R’ Schachter says in the first five minutes, namely why a particular day is Rosh Hodesh. As far as I understood, there are two reasons: when the Sanhederin is properly functioning, a day is considered Rosh Hodesh when the court declares it to be Rosh Hodesh based on the testimony of valid witnesses who spotted the new moon, and when the Sanhedrin is not functioning, our set calendar considers only the moladoth of each Tishrei to determine days of weeks for Rosh Hashana, and once a particular year’s length is known, the first days of each month are then determined based upon alternating 30-day and 29-day months, with certain exceptions. Most importantly, the moladoth of the months that are not Tishrei have absolutely no bearing on when the individual rashei hodashim are celebrated, and I believe that the misconception was fostered by the new practice of announcing the molad each month, which leads people to believe that it somehow has weight in determining Rosh Hodesh. On the contrary, announcing the molad seems to be a recent error.)
I would deeply appreciate if anyone out there would be able to bring all of these points to R’ Schachter’s attention.
Recently, I discovered the life and work of the prolific and tragic Rabbi Moshe Levi, a prize student of Rabbi Meir Mazuz. Lo and behold, in his treatise on the blessings, Birkath Hashem, he lists the prominent authorities, down to the Magen Avraham, who ruled that according to the straight letter of the law, Birkath Hal’vana should be said on Rosh Hodesh, and he himself rules that way.
Which brings me to address a fundamental issue in understanding the nature of practice versus the letter of the law. Four years ago, a number of individuals made the curious claim that because “The minhag” is to say birkath hal’vana sometime after Rosh Hodesh, be it three days thereafter, or seven, or whenever Saturday night may be, it is therefore forbidden to recite the blessing any time earlier. While it would have helped to show them what Rabbi Moshe Levi had to write about it at the time, we mentioned earlier the clear proofs against this claim, but it also highlights an argument that is applicable elsewhere.
It is well-known that the ideal time for the morning prayer is right at sunrise, which is when the morning sacrificial service is supposed to start in the Temple, and this was the practice of the wathiqin of Jerusalem. However, in Orah Hayim 281, the Rema mentions that the practice on Sabbath morning is to arrive at the synagogue later than on weekdays. It cannot mean that people show up later than they would on weekdays, just to make sure that the amida prayer still starts at sunrise, because that would entail somehow abridging the recitation of all of the liturgy that precedes the amida, but that is not possible, because the practice is also to recite more psalms before the reading of the sh’ma and to recite a longer version of the blessings that accompany the sh’ma. The Rma is plainly stating that on the Sabbath, the morning service is delayed, and he even cites the explanation that it is based on what sounds like a d’rasha, that the verse that describes the Sabbath offering says that it is offered by day and not by morning. It must be said that the teaching in question is not a true d’rasha. It is not brought by Hazal, it is not followed by the halacha, as even on the Sabbath the morning lamb was offered at sunrise, and even in context, it is referring to the additional lambs brought after the morning lamb. Now, can one reasonably claim that because “the Minhag” is to pray later Sabbath morning, it is therefore wrong for some of us to pray at sunrise? After all, the R’ma is fairly clear that that is the minhag. Of course it cannot be, but I dread the day someone will say that. This point was made implicitly by the Mishna B’rura, who pointed out that the assumption of Rashi was that in Talmudic times, the Sabbath morning service was also at sunrise. By giving this veiled reference, he is respectfully disagreeing with the practice endorsed by the R’ma. Just because there is a practice to delay the performance of the commandment, it does not mean that the letter of the law may not be followed.
Similarly, there is a practice to delay the evening service the night of Pentecost. Now, it must be said the very idea postdates the Shulhan Aruch and the R’ma, but the letter of the law is and always was that any Sabbath or festival can be accepted before the holy day officially starts, and that is considered a very meritorious deed. Can one reasonably claim that because “the Minhag” is to pray later Pentecost evening, it is therefore wrong for some of us to pray before nightfall? After all, the Mishna B’rura is fairly clear that that is the minhag. Of course it cannot be, but I dread the day someone will say that. Just because there is a practice to delay the performance of the commandment, it does not mean that the letter of the law may not be followed. A few years ago I wrote about my surprise that Rav Aviner ruled that it is forbidden for Ashkenazim to begin the prayers before nightfall on Pentecost, thus ruling that that which the R’ma did and the rest of the Ashkenazim did for centuries was against halacha.
Lastly, we come to the issue of birkath hal’vana, which, according to the letter of the law, should be on Rosh Hodesh. Can one reasonably claim that because “the Minhag” is to recite it some days later, it is therefore wrong for some us to say it earlier? After all, the printed calendar is fairly clear that that is the minhag. Of course it cannot be, but as punishment for my “sins,” I heard many times from those who should have known better that it may not be said earlier, despite the fact that it only takes a few hours of research to find that the letter of the law’s practice is actually endorsed by the sages, and Rashi, and Maimonides, and the Shulhan Aruch, and the Vilna Gaon, and the Mishna B’rura. Just because there is a practice to delay the performance of the commandment, it does not mean that the letter of the law may not be followed. On the contrary, the punctilious seek to perform commandments as soon as possible.
Sometime ago I encountered someone who still made the claim that in the gloss cited above, the Mishna B’rura was merely encouraging the wait-three-days practice for birkath hal’vana, but not at all encouraging actually saying the blessing on Rosh Hodesh, or any time before whenever it is the calendar indicates the time for the blessing. After all, where does the Mishna B’rura, or the Shulhan Aruch for that matter, mention such an idea explicitly? In the entire chapter, the words Rosh Hodesh never appear!
I responded that one has to study the rishonim in order to understand that (and I should have noted that the chapter was included in the group of chapters titled “Hilchoth Rosh Hodesh”).
He then countered, sort of off the point, that “we pasken like the Aharonim, not the Rishonim.”
I then clarified: 1. I do not know who “we” are. Why should anybody follow the Aharonim more than the Rishonim? The notion flies in the face of logic, and also does not follow our sages’maxim, “the words of the master against the words of the student: who will we heed?” such methodology was implicitly rejected by the Vilna Gaon and the Hafetz Hayim. 2. I was saying that in order to understand what the Aharonim are saying, we have to be familiar with the words of the Rishonim, just like if we want to understand the words of the Rishonim, we have to understand the words of the sages, including that of Onqelos. I know what the Mishna B’rura meant because I follow the chain of terminology back to its source in the words of our sages. The moon in its renewal is, by definition, Rosh Hodesh.

גדלות נסי ונפלאות חנוכה

בספר דברים, הרבה מרע”ה לדבר על מלחמות סיחון ועוג כדי להשתיל בלב העם אמונה בה’ ויכולתו לעשות נסים, ולא הדגיש כל כך את הנפלאות ביציאת מצרים, קריעת ים סוף, ומעמד הר סיני. וצ”ע למה משה בחר דווקא לדרוש במלחמות אלו. וראה בשלהי פרשת דברים, ובסוף כי תבא ווילך, שבהן משה חוזר על לקח המלחמות כסימן למלחמות מלכי כנען, והלא היה למשה להזכיר ועשה ה’ להם כאשר עשה לפרעה מלך מצרים.

ויש עוד לעיין בהבטחת הקב”ה לאחר שנתפייס אחרי חטא העגל, הנה אנכי כרת ברית, נגד כל עמך אעשה נפלאות אשר לא ראו בכל הארץ ובכל גויים, וראה כל העם אשר אתה בקרבו את מעשה ה’ כי נורא הוא אשר אני עשה עמך. והלא זה היה אחרי יציאת מצרים, וקריעת ים סוף, ומעמד הר סיני, וייתכן שעד כה לא עשה נפלאות?! ובאמת, מעוצם קושיא זו כתב הרמב”ן שפשט הפסוק הוא שה’ נתן למשה בקשתו להפלותו, להבדילו, ונפלינו אני ועמך, וכמו לשון והפליתי ביום ההוא את ארץ גשן. וקשה, ששורש פ-ל-ה(י) לחוד ושורש פ-ל-א, נורא תהלת עשה פלא, לחוד. והנה בספר שמות  אולי מתחלפין שורשי ק-ר-ה עם ק-ר-א, אלקי העבריים נקרה עלינו ואלקי העברים נקרא עלינו, ומכל מקום קשה.

וי”ל את דעת הר”א בהרמב”ם ואברבנאל, דאין הכי נמי, דעד כריתת ברית זאת, באמת לא הראה ה’ את עצם כחו, והבין את זה משה רבנו שהקב”ה הבטיח לו שהנסים שיתרחשו בכניסה לארץ לעתיד לבוא אכן יהיו גדולים מאד מאד יותר מכל הנסים שהיו מאז, ובהמשך אמר ה’ הנני גרש מפניך אֶת-הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי, וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי. ובגלל זה אמר ה’ למשה לפני מלחמת סיחון היום הזה אחל תת פחדך וְיִרְאָתְךָ, עַל-פְּנֵי הָעַמִּים, תַּחַת כָּל-הַשָּׁמָיִם–אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן שִׁמְעֲךָ, וְרָגְזוּ וְחָלוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ, כי עד כה לא החשיב את נסי שנת יציאת מצרים. וכן אמר משה אחרי הכותו את סיחון מלך האמרי ואת עוג מלך הבשן, ואתחנן אל ה’ בעת ההיא לאמר, ה’ אלקים, אתה החילות להראות את עבדך -גָּדְלְךָ, וְאֶת-יָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה–אֲשֶׁר מִי-אֵל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה כְמַעֲשֶׂיךָ וְכִגְבוּרֹתֶךָ. והעיד משה רבנו שרק אחרי המלחמות האלו, ולא ביציאת מצרים, וקריעת ים סוף, ומעמד הר סיני, ה’ כביכול התחיל באמת להראות את גדלו, וידו החזקה, ומעשיו, וגבורותיו.

ומעין זה אמרו חז”ל שבגאולה העתידה יהיו נסים יותר גדולים מאלה של יציאת מצרים.

וקשה, במה היו נסי ונפלאות המלחמות נגד מלכי האמרי גדולים יותר מאלה של יציאת מצרים וקריעת ים סוף ומעמד הר סיני. וי”ל דבכולם, עשה הקב”ה דרך שאר הבריאות, כגון המים, והצפרדעים, והחשך והלפידים, ובכבודו ובעצמו הכה כל בכור במצרים והוציאנו ממצרים, אבל במלחמות האחרונות ה’ פעל באמצעות ישראל, ומסר גבורים ביד חלשים, טמאים ביד טהורים, ורשעים ביד צדיקים, וזדים ביד עוסקי תורה, ולוחמים וותיקים ביד עם שרידי חרב לא מלומדי מלחמה. וכן כשעם ישראל מנצח במלחמה נעשה שם שמים גדול וקדוש בעולם.

ומזה מובן למה חז”ל יכלו לקבוע שנגמור ההלל (המצרי!) בברכה ח’ ימים דחנוכה, ובפסח רק יום אחד, כי לפי שיטת משה רבנו, גדולות היו הנפלאות האחרונות מהראשונות.

קרבנות ותפלות אברהם אבינו

איתא בזהר פרשת וירא:

מַהוּ יוּקַח נָא מְעַט מַיִם וְרַחֲצּוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם וְגו’ וְאֶקְחָה פַת לֶחֶם וְגו’ וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה אֶל שָׂרָה וְגו’ וְאֶל הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם וְגו’ וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב וְגו’. כַּד אֲתָא רַב דִּימִי אָמַר לא מָצְּאָה הַנְּשָׁמָה תּוֹעֶלֶת לַגּוּף אִלְּמָלֵא מַה שֶּׁרָמַז בְּכָאן רְמֶז הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת. בָּטְלוּ הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת לֹא בָּטְלָה הַתּוֹרָה, הַאי דְּלָא אִעֲסַק בַּקָּרְבָּנוֹת לִיעֲסַק בַּתּוֹרָה וְיִתְהַנֵּי לֵיהּ יַתִּיר וכו׳. אָמַר רַבִּי כְּרוּסְפְּדָאי הַאי מַאן דְּמַדְכַּר בְּפוּמֵיהּ בְּבָתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת וּבְבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת דְּקָרְבָּנַיָא עִנְיָינָא וְתִקְרוּבְתָּא וִיכַוִּון בְּהוּ, בְּרִית כְּרוּתָה הוּא דְּאִנּוּן מַלְאָכַיָא דְּמַדְכְּרִין חוֹבֵיהּ לְאַבְאָשָׁא לֵיהּ דְּלָא יָכְלִין לְמֶעְבַּד לֵיהּ אִלְּמָלֵא טִיבוּ. וּמַאן יוֹכַח הַאי פַּרְשָׁתָא יוֹכַח, דְּכֵיוָן דְּאָמַר והִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו, מַהוּ עָלָיו, לְעַיֵּין בְּדִינֵיהּ, כֵּיוָן דְּחָמָא נִשְׁמָתָא דְּצַּדִּיקַיָא כָּךְ, מַה כְּתִיב וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה וגו’. מַהוּ הָאֹהֱלָה בֵּית הַמִּדְרָשׁ. וּמַהוּ אוֹמֵר מַהֲרִי שְׁלשׁ סְאִים, עִנְיַן הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת, וְנִשְׁמָתָא מִתְכַּוְּונְת בְּהוּ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב וְאֶל הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם. וּכְדֵין נַיְיחָא לְהוּ ולָא יָכְלִין לְאַבְאָשָׁא לֵיהּ.

ושמעינן מינה שבמראה הנבואי בו הוא קבל את מלאכי השרת, אברהם אבינו הקריב קרבן, וזה מעין מעשיו בברית בין הבתרים, שהעגל והתור והאיל היו מעין קרבן, וכן לפי חז׳׳ל מעשה זה של האב נהיה סימן לקרבנות הבנים, ןכן מעין מעשי גדעון ומנוח בספר שופטים שגם נפגשו עם המלאכים והציעו להם ״לאכול,״ ושם נאמר:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ; וְעָשִׂיתָ לִּי אוֹת, שָׁאַתָּה מְדַבֵּר עִמִּי. אַל-נָא תָמֻשׁ מִזֶּה, עַד-בֹּאִי אֵלֶיךָ, וְהֹצֵאתִי אֶת-מִנְחָתִי, וְהִנַּחְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ; וַיֹּאמַר, אָנֹכִי אֵשֵׁב עַד שׁוּבֶךָ. וְגִדְעוֹן בָּא, וַיַּעַשׂ גְּדִי-עִזִּים וְאֵיפַת-קֶמַח מַצּוֹת, הַבָּשָׂר שָׂם בַּסַּל, וְהַמָּרַק שָׂם בַּפָּרוּר; וַיּוֹצֵא אֵלָיו אֶל-תַּחַת הָאֵלָה, וַיַּגַּשׁ. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו מַלְאַךְ הָאֱלֹ-הִים, קַח אֶת-הַבָּשָׂר וְאֶת-הַמַּצּוֹת וְהַנַּח אֶל-הַסֶּלַע הַלָּז, וְאֶת-הַמָּרַק, שְׁפוֹךְ; וַיַּעַשׂ, כֵּן. וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאַךְ ה׳ אֶת-קְצֵה הַמִּשְׁעֶנֶת אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ, וַיִּגַּע בַּבָּשָׂר וּבַמַּצּוֹת; וַתַּעַל הָאֵשׁ מִן-הַצּוּר וַתֹּאכַל אֶת-הַבָּשָׂר וְאֶת-הַמַּצּוֹת, וּמַלְאַךְ ה׳, הָלַךְ מֵעֵינָיו. וַיַּרְא גִּדְעוֹן, כִּי-מַלְאַךְ ה׳ הוּא.

וכן במנוח ואשתו

וַיֹּאמֶר מָנוֹחַ אֶל-מַלְאַךְ ה׳ נַעְצְרָה-נָּא אוֹתָךְ וְנַעֲשֶׂה לְפָנֶיךָ גְּדִי עִזִּים. וַיֹּאמֶר מַלְאַךְ ה׳ אֶל-מָנוֹחַ, אִם-תַּעְצְרֵנִי לֹא-אֹכַל בְּלַחְמֶךָ וְאִם-תַּעֲשֶׂה עֹלָה לַה׳ תַּעֲלֶנָּה כִּי לֹא-יָדַע מָנוֹחַ כִּי-מַלְאַךְ ה׳ הוּא. וַיֹּאמֶר מָנוֹחַ אֶל-מַלְאַךְ ה׳ מִי שְׁמֶךָ  כִּי-יָבֹא דְבָרְךָ וְכִבַּדְנוּךָ. וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מַלְאַךְ ה׳, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי וְהוּא-פֶלִאי. וַיִּקַּח מָנוֹחַ אֶת-גְּדִי הָעִזִּים, וְאֶת-הַמִּנְחָה, וַיַּעַל עַל-הַצּוּר לַה׳ וּמַפְלִא לַעֲשׂוֹת וּמָנוֹחַ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ רֹאִים. וַיְהִי בַעֲלוֹת הַלַּהַב מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וַיַּעַל מַלְאַךְ-ה׳ בְּלַהַב הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וּמָנוֹחַ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ רֹאִים וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם אָרְצָה.

וכמו שלימדו חז׳׳ל שמלאכים ממונים על העלאת צלותנא (אבל אין לבקש מהן לעשות את זה), יש מלאכים הממונים על העלאת הקרבנות, והם האש הבוערת על המזבח וכמאמר דוד המלך, עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת; מְשָׁרְתָיו, אֵשׁ לֹהֵט. ויש לציין שלפי מדרשי חז׳׳ל, לפעמים נראים הצדיקים הטהורים כמלאכים, ומלאכים לפעמים נראים כמו בני אדם, ורמז למוסר השכל בדבר.

רעיון זה, שאברהם חווה התגלות אלוהית בשעת הקרבת קרבן, רמוז בתרגומו של אונקלוס. לפסוק  וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ וַיֹּאכֵלוּ, מתרגמינן, וְהוּא מְשַׁמֵּישׁ עִלָּוֵיהוֹן תְּחוֹת אִילָנָא וַאֲכַלוּ. ושימוש הוא אותו הפועל שאונקלוס הביא בשאר ספרי תורת משה לתאר את פעולותיהם העיקריות של הכהנים, לעבוד ולשרת. יתר על כן, כתוב שכאשר “האנשים” סיימו את המשימה שלהם באלוני ממרא, וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה; וְאַבְרָהָם עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי ה׳ (וזה למרות שלפני זה כתוב שהוא ״הלך עמם לשלחם!״) ושם התרגום: וְאִתְפְּנִיאוּ מִתַּמָּן גֻּבְרַיָּא וַאֲזַלוּ לִסְדוֹם וְאַבְרָהָם עַד כְּעַן מְשַׁמֵּישׁ בִּצְלוֹ קֳדָם ה׳. אברהם עדיין היה משמש בתפלה לפני ה׳. כלומר, כאשר הקרבן היה מועלה על ידי האש, אברהם עמד מתחת לעץ כדי להתפלל, כדרכו בקודש לבנות מזבחות ולקרוא בשם ה׳, למִבנֶה מַדְבְּחָא קֳדָם יְיָ, ולצַלּוי בִּשְׁמָא דַּייָ, והמשיך באותה העמידה כאשר הקב׳׳ה הודיע ​​לו על מהפכת סדום, המסומלת על ידי הגעת שני המלאכים לעיר. ורחמנא לִבא בעי, והפעולה העיקרית של הקרבת הקרבן היא הכוונה והריכוז דרך התפלה. תפלה וקרבנות נקראו עבודה, אחד בלב ואחד בידים, ואוי נא לנו על חרבן בית מקדשנו כי חסר לנו החלק הגדול של התפלה. נקודה זו מתחזקת לאחר המהפכה, כאשר אנו קוראים וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם, בַּבֹּקֶר אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַד שָׁם אֶת-פְּנֵי ה׳, ושם מתרגמינן וְאַקְדֵּים אַבְרָהָם בְּצַפְרָא לְאַתְרָא דְּשַׁמֵּישׁ תַּמָּן בִּצְלוֹ, קֳדָם ה׳. וחשוב לציין שבדרך כלל, התרגום של לשונות עמידה והתייצבות הוא מלשון קימה, וראה תרגומי: והנה שלשה אנשים מצבים עליו, ויקומו וירדו מצרים ויעמדו לפני יוסף, וַיַּעֲמֹד מֹשֶׁה, בְּשַׁעַר הַמַּחֲנֶה, אתם נצבים היום כלכם.

ושוב אנחנו קוראים על עבודת הלויים, וְכִי-יָבֹא הַלֵּוִי מֵאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ, מִכָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר-הוּא גָּר שָׁם וּבָא בְּכָל-אַוַּת נַפְשׁוֹ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה׳. והביא רש׳׳י את דברי חז׳׳ל כי הלוי כאן הוא הכהן, וְשֵׁרֵת בְּשֵׁם ה׳ אֱלֹ-הָיו כְּכָל-אֶחָיו הַלְוִיִּם הָעֹמְדִים שָׁם לִפְנֵי ה׳. ואת שתי פעולות הכהנים, העמידה והשירות, תרגם שם אונקלוס שימוש, וִישַׁמֵּישׁ בִּשְׁמָא דַּה׳ אֱלָ-הֵיה כְּכָל אֲחוֹהִי לֵיוָאֵי, דִּמְשַׁמְּשִׁין תַּמָּן קֳדָם ה׳. ויש לומר כי חכמינו תקנו את עיקר התפלה, י׳׳ח ברכות, בעמידה דווקא בגלל זה, והשתמשו במונח עמידה כתפלה עצמה.

לפני שנה כתבתי על גישת חז׳׳ל לגבי הבית היהודי כמקדש, ואיך שאברהם ושרה הפכו את אהלם למקדש, ומחוצה לו בנו מזבח, והקריבו קרבנות, ושם היה מקום העלייה למבקשי ה׳ ושם שרתה השכינה. וזה חוזר ונשנה בפרשתנו, וירא אליו ה׳ וכו׳, והוא יושב פתח האהל, וחסרה מילת היחס, וזה מרמז על מיקומו של המזבח במשכן פתח אהל מועד, וכאשר המלאכים בִשרו אותו על לידת יצחק, שרה שומעת פתח האהל, כלומר עכשיו היא גם עמדה ליד המזבח להשתתף במעשה הקרבן והעמידה לתפלה וככה היא גם שמעה את דבר ה׳.

וחתימת פרשת וירא כעין פתיחתה. בפתיחה אברהם מביא קרבן מיוחד, ואז שומע על לידת יצחק, ובסוף אברהם מביא קרבן מיוחד, עקידת יצחק, ואז הוא שומע על לידת רבקה. בשני המאורעות מוזכר “נער” שמסייע לאברהם, ובשניהם החכמים אמרו שהוא ישמעאל, שנאלץ להתבונן וללמוד מהנעשה ולהכיר בבחירת יצחק.

ויצחק המשיך את דרכו של שברהם, לקרוא בשם ה׳ באזני הבריות למען יידעו כל באי עולם כי יש בורא, ואת תורת אברהם אבינו ראו חז׳׳ל במעשה הבארות, סתמום פלשתים וימלאום עפר, לאחר מיתת אברהם כפרו בתורת אברהם אבינו באמרם ״מה נעשה לאברהם העברי הלז, שמשתמש בגמילות חסדים והכנסת אורחים כדי להכשיל את הבריות בעבודת ה׳,״ וישב יצחק ויחפור את בארות המים והחזיר העטרה ליושנה, והמים באר מים חיים הם התורה שנמשלה למים, ויברך אל-הים את יצחק, ואחרי זה כתוב, וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם ה׳, וַיֶּט-שָׁם, אָהֳלוֹ; וַיִּכְרוּ שָׁם עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק, בְּאֵר. יצחק גם בנה מזבח, ותוך הקרבתו עליו, התפלל, ושם הוא גם קבע אהלו, היינו מקדשו, ועבדיו, היינו תלמידיו, קבעו שם בית מדרש היינו באר, וכמו שהסנהדרין ישב בלשכת הגזית הסמוכה לעזרת המקדש בה היה מזבח העולה.

Parasha Notes: Wayeira 5778

Zohar, Wayeira:

What is the meaning of [Genesis 18:4-8]: “Let now a little water be fetched, and wash your feet… And I will fetch a morsel of bread… And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah…  And Abraham ran to the herd… And he took curd, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed…”? When R’ Dimi came, he said, the soul found no purpose in the body except for what is alluded to here in the matter of sacrifices. Even if the sacrifices are no longer brought, the Torah lasts….

The Zohar continues with an idea found a number of times in the Talmud, that studying the passages concerning the sacrifices can make up for not offering them. The Zohar then continues:

Rabbi Krusp’dai said, he who verbally recites the matters of the sacrifices and their accouterments in the synagogues and study halls and has intent, it is guaranteed that those angels that recall his sins, to his detriment, will only be able to do good to him. Who will prove this? This section. It says, “and behold, three men were standing over him [alaw].” What does alaw really mean? They were investigating him. When that righteous man’s soul saw this, what does it say? “He ran to the tent.” What is the tent? The study hall. And what does it say? “Quick, prepare three measures of fine flour.” This is the nature of the sacrifices. The soul finds direction through them, and this is what “and Abraham ran to the herd” means.

That is, in the Zohar, the Torah’s description of Abraham’s vision of his interaction with the angels is a sacrificial ritual, just like the Covenant Between the Parts being an intricate sacrificial ritual. Similarly, the incidences described in Judges 6 and 13, wherein Gideon and Manoah, respectively,  offer to prepare “meals” for their angelic visitors, are also descriptions of sacrifices. Just like our prayers are brought before the Throne of Glory by the ministering angles, so too, the parts of the sacrifices burned on the altar are brought heavenward by the fire, and this is what the verses mean when they describe the angels as “eating.” As Psalms 104:4, says “[You] make winds Your angels, the flaming fire Your ministers,” the fire is the angel that raises the sacrifice.

This idea, that Abraham experienced a detailed divine revelation while performing a form of sacrifice is subtlety described in Onqelos’s translation. It says (18:8), “and he stood [‘omed] over them under the tree while they ate,” which in Aramaic is rendered, “and he ministered [m’shammeish],” the same verb used in the subsequent books of the Pentateuch as the translation for the main activities of the priests, la’avod and l’shareth. Further, it says that when the “men” had finished their mission to Abraham (18:22),  “the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham was still standing [‘odennu ‘omed] before the Lord,” which is rendered, “but Abraham was still ministering in prayer [m’shammeish bitzlo] before the Lord.” That is, when the sacrifice was being consumed by the fire, Abraham stood under the tree in prayer, and continued in that state when God informed him of Sodom’s imminent destruction symbolized by the approach of the angels to the city, because the essential act of the sacrificial rite is the kawwana, the intention and concentration of the spirit brought about through prayer. Prayer and sacrifice go hand in hand, and it is only to our disadvantage that the divine service is missing. This point is reinforced after the upheaval, when we read (19:27), “Abraham got up early in the morning” to look out upon Sodom, “to the place where he had stood [asher ‘amad sham] before the Lord,” and once again the translation is “where he had ministered in prayer.”

This linguistic concept is most explicit in a verse (Deuteronomy 18:7), that, according to tradition (Rashi to ibid., 6), is referring to the subset of Levites known as Kohanim : “Then he shall serve, w’shereth, in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, who stand, ha’om’dim, there [in the Temple] before the Lord.” Both of those critical Hebrew verbs describing the sacrificial service, serving and standing, are translated into Aramaic as shimmush, ministering. All of this being considered, we can postulate that the sages decreed that the main obligatory prayer, the ‘amida, be offered while standing because of its essential connection to the sacrifices.

Last year, I wrote about the Midrashic/Talmudic concept of the Jewish home as the Sanctuary , and this was exemplified by that built by Abraham and Sarah, who in essence turned their tent into THE Sanctuary which featured an altar, sacrifice, pilgrimage, and divine revelation. This concept is also a motif in this parasha. It says that when Abraham first received the revelation, he was sitting pethah ha’ohel, “at the entrance of the tent,” once again, missing the preposition, which alludes to the placement of Abraham’s altar somewhere outside the tent, and when the angels delivered the news of Isaac’s conception, it says “w’sara shoma’ath pethah ha’ohel, Sarah was listening [at] the entrance of the tent,” i.e., she now occupied the place of the altar that Abraham had occupied, indicating her involvement in the meditation and sacrifice, and resultant revelation.

With all of this mind, we find that Parashath Wayeira is partially chiastic in that its conclusion is reminiscent of its opening. First we read about Abraham bringing a special form of Sacrifice before God and then receiving word of Isaac’s birth, and later we read about Abraham bringing a special sacrifice, the Binding of Isaac, and then he receives word of Rebecca’s birth. And, in both accounts, a “lad” is mentioned as assisting Abraham, and in both instances, the sages identified that lad as Ishmael, who was made to observe and learn from both episodes.

Continuing with the Maimonidean understanding of Lot’s vision, the angels refusing his invitation is an indication that he attempted to rectify the sin of Sodom, hostility to wayfarers, by showing them hospitality, and that it was rejected. Lot’s insistence represents the desperate personal conflict that animated him, a strong desire to do as Abraham had taught him, thus making him deserving of divine mercy, against an inability to separate himself from the depravity of his surroundings.

Natural Hadassim


Hallel and Kappara on Rosh Hodesh

There is a late custom to fast most days preceding Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon. Dubbed “Yom Kippur Qatan,” a Minor Day of Atonement, the pre-new-moon fast is usually not observed before Teiveth, for example, because it would coincide with Hanukka. Similarly, is not observed at the end of Tishrei or Nisan because of the festivity of those outgoing months. The basis for the practice is ostensibly that Rosh Hodesh is a day of extra atonement, and therefore it is appropriate to increase supplications and prayers prior to Rosh Hodesh. However, the question may be asked: how do we know that Rosh Hodesh is all about atonement? What is the basis for that?

Last year I heard someone offer that the basis is the following passage (Bava Metzia 85b):

Elijah used to frequent Rabbi’s academy. One day, on Rosh Hodesh, [Rabbi] was waiting for him, but he failed to come. Said he to him [the next day]: ‘Why did you not come?’ — He replied: ‘[I had to wait] until I awoke Abraham, washed his hands, and he prayed and I put him to rest again; likewise to Isaac and Jacob.’ ‘But why not wake them all together?’ — ‘I feared that they would pray too strongly and bring the Messiah before his time.’ ‘And is there anyone like them in this world?’ he asked. — ‘There is R’ Hiyya and his sons.’

He concluded that this teaches us that Rosh Hodesh is an auspicious time for prayer. I responded that this Midrash is certainly not the source for anything about Rosh Hodesh, but rather illustrative of what the Sages believed about Rosh Hodesh, which was itself sourced in the written Torah.


In the Bible, Rosh Hodesh is connected to the Sabbath. In Numbers 28, the sacrifices for special days are introduced with the sacrifices for Rosh Hodesh and the Sabbath. In II Kings 4 the assumption is that the people would gather for instruction on New Moons and Sabbaths, and the book of Isaiah opens by connecting the two days: “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies,” and concludes with, “It shall come to pass, that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me.” Further, Unlike the other biblical mo’adim, appointed times, the Sabbath and Rosh Hodesh are bereft of positive commandments peculiar to themselves. On the rest of the appointed times, there are pilgrimages and personal sacrifices, sukka, and shofar blowing, and feasting. On the Sabbath, we are bidden to refrain from certain labors, and all of the positive observances we know, candle lighting, three meals, qiddush, etc., are institutions of the sages. On Rosh Hodesh, not only are there no positive commandments typical of the other special days, there is no prohibition of labor that characterizes the Sabbath and festivals. The sages taught that the Sabbaths were dedicated to Torah study, and to a lesser extent, the Yamim Tovim, but we can not do likewise on Rosh Hodesh, because six out of seven times, Rosh Hodesh is on a workday. It is thus no surprise that the sages could not decree some form of work stoppage on Rosh Hodesh like they did on the Hol Hamo’ed. Along with the matter of interrogating the witnesses and declaring the begining of the month in order to establish the calendar, the only other commandment of the day was the additional sacrifices in the Temple, a matter which was the prerogative of the court. However, we find something very interesting concerning those sacrifices: Every day, the offering consisted of two lambs, and on the Sabbath an additional two lambs, but on Rosh Hodesh, the offering was a whopping two bulls, a ram, seven lambs, and a he goat for a sin offering, which, by no coincidence, was the same as that offered on every day of Passover and on Pentecost. Not only that, the offerings for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sh’mini Atzereth were almost identical, except that instead of two bulls, only one bull was offered. (See here for an interesting idea on this topic.) In the Temple, the Rosh Hodesh service was basically that of a holiday due to its multiplicity of sacrifices, and as we have seen before, the main purpose of any sacrifice was the atonement. That is, the sages realized that only positive commandment of the Torah related to the day of Rosh Hodesh was an atonement service on par with that of all the other holidays, and therefore the theme of the day was atonement.

This is the meaning of the formula we use in the prayers of every Rosh Hodesh:

רָאשֵׁי חֳדָשִׁים לְעַמְּךָ נָתָתָּ.

You gave New Moons to your people

זְמַן כַּפָּרָה לְכָל תּולְדותָם.

A time for atonement for all their generations,

בִּהְיותָם מַקְרִיבִים לְפָנֶיךָ זִבְחֵי רָצון.

When they would offer before You desired sacrifices

וּשעִירֵי חַטָּאת לְכַפֵּר בַּעֲדָם.

and he-goats of sin-offerings to atone on their behalf.

And this is in contrast to the formulas used on the festivals, which describes their purposes:

וַתִּתֶּן לָנוּ יְ-יָ אֱלֹקינוּ בְּאַהֲבָה

And you lovingly gave us, O Lord, our God,

שַׁבָּתות לִמְנוּחָה

Sabbaths for rest

מועֲדִים לְשִׂמְחָה חַגִּים וּזְמַנִּים לְשָׂשׂוֹן

appointed times for happiness, festivals and seasons for gladness.


יום הזכרון הזה, יום תרועה

This Memorial Day, a day of sounding the shofar.

יום הכפורים הזה, למחילה לסליחה ולכפרה ולמחל בל את כל עעונותינו

This Day of Atonement, for forgiveness, for pardoning, and for atonement, and to forgive all of our sins.

In this light we can also understand why the Jews of Babylon developed what was a perplexing practice in the eyes of one of the last tanna’im (Ta’anith 28b):

Rav once came to Babylonia and noticed that they recited the Hallel on Rosh Hodesh; at first he thought of stopping them, but when he saw that they omitted parts of it, he said, “it is clearly evident that it is an old ancestral custom of theirs.” A Tanna taught: The individual should not recite [the Hallel], but once he has begun he should complete it.

That is, in early 3rd century Israel, the custom of reciting Hallel on Rosh Hodesh was unknown to our sages. Of all the rituals the Jews of the diaspora could have conceived of to mark the begining of the month, why would they choose the recitation of the Hallel? Why not some other biblical or rabbinical practices? Further, why would the recitation of such a Hallel be ideally limited to public prayer? What is wrong if one praying alone or if groups less than ten recite the Hallel?*

When the Temple stood, the recitation of the Hallel was the hallmark of the sacrificial service on Festivals (Arachin 10b). In the centuries after the Destruction, when the observance of Rosh Hodesh was sorely lacking its defining feature, the Temple service, the Jewish people of the Diaspora developed a practice, reciting Hallel, that harked back to Temple times. But because this new Hallel was not like the Hallel of the festivals and Hanukka, which is an obligation on every individual, but rather a means of recalling the Temple service which was on the behalf of the community, the sages limited this Hallel to the public prayers.

With all this in mind, we can better focus on another aspect of the Musaf prayer that is unique to Rosh Hodesh, one that we do not mention in all the other musafim:

מִזְבֵּחַ חָדָשׁ בְּצִיּון תָּכִין וְעולַת ראשׁ חודֶשׁ נַעֲלֶה עָלָיו

Establish a new altar in Zion, and we shall bring the New Moon burnt offering upon it.

וּשעִירֵי עִזִּים נַעֲשה בְרָצון. וּבַעֲבודַת בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ נִשמַח כֻּלָּנוּ.

And we shall prepare he-goats with favor, and all of shall rejoice in the service of the Holy Temple.

וּבְשִׁירֵי דָּוִד עַבְדֶּךָ הַנִּשְׁמָעִים בְּעִירֶךָ. הָאֲמוּרִים לִפְנֵי מִזְבְּחֶךָ.

and through the songs of Your servant, David, heard in Your city, recited before Your Altar,
אַהֲבַת עולָם תָּבִיא לָהֶם וּבְרִית אָבות לַבָּנִים תִּזְכּור:

You shall grant them eternal love, and remember the covenant of the fathers on behalf of the children.

Only on Rosh Hodesh do we mention the recitation of the psalms that was an integral part of the Temple service, because it is only on Rosh Hodesh that we publicly recite psalms dedicated to the recollection of that service.

*I considered that perhaps sounding the shofar could have been introduced as a monthly custom, because it was also a a feature of the Temple services during the musafim, including Rosh Hodesh, but the Gemara mentions that at times in history, the Jews were wary of blowing the shofar even on Rosh Hashana, when it was an obligation everywhere and on everyone. Indeed, it was because of this that the shofar blowing was moved from the morning service to before musaf, so it would be difficult to introduce it when not necessary.

Parasha Notes Pin’has-Matoth-Masei

I would like to address the following difficulties in Parashath Pi’nhas:

Why were the tribes of Israel divided into families, and why were all the families listed? What purpose did it serve?

Why were certain women included on the list, namely, the daughters of Zelofhad and Serah the daughter of Asher?

Why were the Levites even mentioned in this latter count, if they were specifically not to receive shares of land? (In the begining of the book, their count was an introduction to their jobs in the Tabernacle, but here no such issue is raised.) Further, why were they divided also among families if they were not to receive real portions, and why is the matter of Aharon’s family reiterated at this point, including the deaths of Nadav and Avihu?

My attempted answers:

The sages and the Rishonim and the Aharonim never arrived at a consensus to resolve the difficulties posed by the commandments to give “more to the greater and less to the smaller,” yet to also divide the land by lot, and to somehow divide the land both among those who actually left Egypt and the next generation that came of age during the 40 years of sojourn (See here for how in Biblical idiom, “those who left Egypt” also refers to those born years after the Exodus.). For the most part, the significance of the families has not been analyzed, nor has there been offered a sufficient set of criteria for what constitutes a family, or who among Jacob’s descendants were privileged to start families.

However, I would like to point out some facts:

Statistically speaking, families ranged in size from about 4,000 souls on average (from the tribe of Simeon) to almost 60,000, from the tribe of Dan. Among Judah, families were on average 15,000, and from Issachar 20,000. Thus, a particular number or range of numbers did not seem to be the criterion. However, it is worth noting that the the tribe of Menashe, which at 50,000 was just about the average size for a tribe (about 601,000 divided by 12), had the most families, eight, and surprisingly enough, according to most maps that seek to draw the borders of the tribes, Menashshe received the most land, and this might have been an impetus for Moses to include part of that tribe in the land grant he gave to Reuben and Gad.

On the other hand, the tribe of Dan numbered some 10,000 more than average, and yet, as described in a number of places in the books of Joshua and Judges, Dan received the smallest portion, and not coincidentally, it only made up a single family. These facts would indicate that families, specifically the numbers thereof, had what to do with how much land a tribe received.

As for the daughters of Zelofhad, most suggest that they were on the list because even though they were women, they received a portion of the land among the men. Now, Rashi says that Serah, Asher’s daughter, or as the Targum has it, step-daughter, was included in the count because she was still alive. The implication is that if other granddaughters of Jacob had also been alive, they would have also been entitled to land. Why should this be? I would suggest that any granddaughters of Jacob would have been entitled to a piece of the land in their own right, because, by definition, they could not be part of any of the tribal families. That is, in Serah’s case for example, it was her brothers who were the founders of the tribal families. (It is obvious that when the Torah says, for example, that someone had a family, and that each of his two mentioned sons also had families, the people included in his family were from all his children who were not those specifically named sons. For example, Peretz had a family, and so did his sons Hetzron and Hamul, so those who remained in the Peretz family were all those descendants of Peretz who were not descendants of Hetzron and Hamul, i.e., from other children not mentioned.) Serah was exceptional in two ways: she was a granddaughter of Jacob, and she had survived, and therefore she was entitled to land in her own right because she was not part of any family (because she could not be a descendant of one of her brothers) although she was a full-fledged member of the tribe. This also explains why in Mattoth we read about how the family of Machir received the Gilead, in the Transjordan, but Jair and Novah, the two other childless sons of Menashe, who by definition could not be part of the tribal families of Menashe, had, like Serah, also miraculously lived well after the Exodus, and seized control of their territories, which they named after themselves (Numbers 32:40-42).

As for the Levites, their families are listed because we need to understand how, in the times of Joshua, the Levites were able to divide themselves up among the 48 cities given to them, and how even though there were only three living kohanim a year after the Exodus, by the time the land and cities were apportioned, the kohanim ended up getting such a large share of the Levitic cities. See also here for an explanation regarding the Levites’ numbers and their familial divisions.